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Bipartisan Group of Senators Questions Shein CEO on Forced Labor

Two Democrats and a Republican are asking the CEO of Shein, a fast-fashion powerhouse, about its use of de minimis and its purchases of Xinjiang cotton. All products made in Xinjiang are barred from entry to the U.S., unless importers can prove they were not made with forced labor, but small packages imported directly by consumers escape CBP scrutiny.

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Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., wrote a letter to Shein CEO Chris Xu in Singapore, noting that Bloomberg did testing of the company's garments and found cotton grown in Xinjiang in their goods (see 2211210071). They asked for answers within 30 days, to assist in Congress' oversight of the ban on importing goods made with forced labor, and of the de minimis provision.

The letter released publicly Feb. 9 included the questions:

  • Does Shein, its parent, subsidiary, or any of its suppliers use cotton fibers from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in the production of any garment it sells? If yes, please provide an estimate of the quantity and percent of XUAR-sourced cotton in Shein products.
  • How does Shein document the entire supply chain of finished products from the origin of the cotton at the bale level to final production and shipment? Does the company perform laboratory or other tests to ensure that it is not using XUAR sourced cotton?
  • How many of the 84 zero tolerance audit violations involved issues with regard to forced labor?
  • Shein’s 2021 Sustainability Report indicates that if a supplier is discovered to have used forced labor in the production of a Shein product, it has as long as 90 days to remediate the situation before termination. Why does Shein not immediately terminate contracts with suppliers who have been found guilty of using forced labor?
  • What percentage of Shein’s shipments by volume to the United States are imported under the auspices of Section 321 (de minimis) of the Tariff Act of 1930?

Cassidy has proposed legislation that would curtail the generous de minimis threshold in the U.S. (see 2301130042).

In the previous Congress, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., then the trade subcommittee chairman on the Ways and Means Committee, introduced a bill that would end Chinese shipments from de minimis eligibility (see 2203100041). Blumenauer has said 83% of de minimis shipments are from China.